Ida Mae’s For Breakfast, Lunch Or Dinner

In a review sure to get Philebrity riled up Craig LaBan drops “funky” three times in his review of Fishtown’s Ida Mae’s. But he finds the food good in the AM or the PM.

Ida’s chef and co-owner, Mary Kate McCaughey, always knew she wanted a “bruncherie” because of the sense of community that morning meal taps. And she’s a local, having grown up in Port Richmond and Fishtown, where as a girl she used to buy penny candy at the grocery Ida’s eventually replaced.

That corner space, most recently a coffee shop, was transformed by Mary Kate’s husband, Feargus McCaughey, into a charmingly cozy cafe, with a bustling counterside grill in front, and a rear dining room that feels like a well-kept parlor, with stained-glass windows, wooden banquettes, arty photos, and granite cafe tables.

Those seats hum to capacity on weekends. And though our mellow mop-topped waiter could have moved with more pep (and remembered the water, o.j., and cutlery), the kitchen works like a well-buttered machine (about a pound of it goes into the creamed chipped beef).

Two Bells – Very Good

Ida Mae’s [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Ida Mae’s [Official Site]

Talula’s Table

Talula’s Table

Craig LaBan doesn’t give out any bells to Talula’s Table but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of his favorite meals of the year. Instead of giving a formal review of the Kennett Square market LaBan walks us through his meal and how the former owners of Django wound up in Chester County.

Word of Talula’s farmhouse-table tasting dinners, served to just one group of 8 to 12 a night, four or five nights a week, has wafted far across the foodie grapevine like a very warm and tempting breeze. Kennett Square is a long hour’s drive from Center City at the height of evening traffic. Could it possibly be worth the anticipation of a reservation made nearly two months in advance?

Olexy and her staff immediately began pouring from the bottles of chilled Sancerre brought by one of my guests. (All the wines are BYO.) And as I nibbled hungrily on warm puff pastry breadsticks perfumed with butter and a whiff of anchovy, I took an eager glance at the artfully printed menus laid at our place settings.

One of the best meals I’ve eaten all year was about to unfold.

From Django to Kennett Square [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Talula’s Table [Official Site]

Salento

Salento

Photo by Ryan Charles

Craig LaBan reviews Salento, the newish Italian BYOB at 23rd and Walnut. He finds Salento a “worthy addition” to the crowded Italian BYO scene.

What Salento may lack in warm decor and pure comfort (the room is incredibly noisy, despite sound treatments), the restaurant more than compensates for in outgoing service and genuine flavors.

The menu’s style is similar to L’Angolo’s, though it mostly avoids duplication, and Faenza focuses on the aspects – bean dishes, seafood, and game ragus – that distinguish his region and hometown of Gallipoli.

Two Bells – Very Good

Salento [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Thai In Manayunk

Chabaa Thai Bistro

Craig LaBan takes a look at Chabaa Thai on Main Street in Manayunk. He discovers the spot has come a ways from its original muffled flavors.

The two-year-old Chabaa Thai Bistro has blossomed into a beautiful space, a bilevel room draped in silk fabrics, with gold-leafed walls and art that pays homage to the culture and spiritual life of Thailand. From the earth plow and Buddha imagery on the first floor to the silken lanterns, bamboo fishing traps, and floating market photography on the larger second floor, Chabaa exudes exotic serenity – even when the space hums

Two Bells – Very Good

Chabaa Thai Bistro [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Chabaa Thai Bistro [Official Site]

Main Line Beer Bar Gets Props

Teresa’s Next Door
Craig LaBan heads to Wayne to try the new beer bar Teresa’s Next Door.

Teresa’s Next Door is more than a curious social scene. It is the serious beer venue the Main Line has been needing, with 26 great brews on tap and more than 200 in the bottle. And no, the food isn’t lousy.

Two Bells – Very Good

Teresa’s Next Door

Blackbird Eating Establishment

Seared Gulf Shrimp
One of Craig LaBan’s favorite young chefs, Alex Capasso is back with his own place, Blackbird Eating Establishment in Collingswood, and it is excellent.

It is the seamless contemporary cooking from Capasso and his longtime kitchen lieutenant, William Connelly, that truly makes Blackbird worth a trip – even with a $3 bridge toll.

Rooted in French and Italian techniques with a few nods to Asia, and using excellent local ingredients, Blackbird’s kitchen delivers some memorable plates. Dinner isn’t cheap, with regular menu entrees ranging into the high $20s. But Capasso also turned out one of the best $30 four-course menus I’ve seen for a recent “farm to fork” event, though I’ll concede I couldn’t resist that menu’s numerous opportunities for upgrades.

Three Bells – Excellent

A welcome homecoming [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Blackbird Eating Establishment [Official Site]

Food and Drinq

food and drinq
The Philadelphia Inquirer has gone and taken the food blog plunge debuting Food and Drinq this morning. Backed by Inquirer writers Maureen Fitzgerald, Michael Klein, Rick Nichols and Craig LaBan Food and Drinq is the latest Philly.com blog. So welcome aboard the Internets and good luck with the tubes. We just have one question, what took you so long?

Food and Drinq [Philly.com]

707

Craig LaBan tries the comfort food of 707 Restaurant & Lounge and finds some worthwhile comfort food updates but not enough to escape a one bell rating.

Yes, there is style galore at 707, which is one of the most handsome restaurants to open this year. But are the scenesters being fed with substance?

That depends, of course, upon what you order from the extensive and affordable menu of updated American classics, which hits highlights with overloaded salads and a nearly perfect omelet. But on the whole, the cleverly fussed-with comfort food – something of a cross between Jones and Marathon Grill – is packed with more “whimsy” than “yummy.”

One Bell – Hit Or Miss

707 Restaurant & Bar [Philadelphia Inquirer]
707 Restaurant & Bar [Official Site]

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